Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Mission-shaped Church for Older People?

We often talk about older people on this blog, the increasing numbers of them, they way they are the mainstay of many smaller churches, the way their skills and abilities are often unrecognized. However, it's still taken me three years or so to catch up with this book: A Mission-shaped Church for Older People? - Practical Suggestions for Local Churches by Michael Collyer, Claire Dalpra, Alison Johnson and James Woodward.

The book is published by Church Army and the Leveson Centre, a group that focuses on the study of Aging, Spirituality and Social Policy. It is readily accessible resource that should be invaluable for anyone who wants to think about the issues, problems and opportunities posed by an ageing population, and then to take action.

In his Foreword Dr John Sentamu says ‘The way the book is set out will be warmly welcomed by busy and hard-pressed church leaders. In the first part, three modules (thirteen sessions including an introduction) are explained and planned - the leader has simply to familiarise themselves with the content and provide supportive material for each session. The second part contains a whole range of helpful related material which should be placed in the hands of anyone who ministers among older people: the range is quite extraordinary.

You can find a good review of the book from the Church of England newspaper, and can buy a copy on the Leveson Centre site. You can also download a copy from the same address.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Re-thinking priesthood

Sometimes there's a great temptation to simply copy a blog post from somewhere else and dump it in your own blog, especially when everything that's in the post is of value.

However, I'll resist the temptation and point you straight to the source - in this case, the Prodigal Kiwi(s) blog, and the post entitled: Re-Thinking Priesthood for the Sake of Mission, the Present and the Future.

The reason this blog post struck such a chord was that it's written very much along the lines of the thinking of the Presbyterian National Mission Office - in particular the National Mission Enabler, John Daniel. Substitute 'Ministry' for "Priesthood' and you could be talking about the Presbyterian denomination.

What's great about this post is that it shows the Holy Spirit isn't just working in one part of the church, but much wider.

Couple of quotes

A couple of quotes from the Next Reformation blog.

It takes most men five years to recover from a college education, and to learn that poetry is as vital to thinking as knowledge.

Brooks Atkinson, Once Around the Sun, 1951

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

e.e. cummings, 1955

Your Most Important Conversation

Gordon McDonald, who probably knows as much as anyone about what happens when you don't spend enough time with God, has written an article for the Leadership Journal called, Your Most Important Conversation.

Here's a short extract.

Among my most frequently-asked questions to men and women in leadership who are struggling with spiritual malaise is, "What does an ideal week look like for you? Describe for me the priority activities that fill your week." Usually, I hear a list of leader-like activities with which we are all familiar: staff meetings, sermon study, consultations with church leaders, training seminars, budget meetings, counseling appointments, long-range planning functions. Sometimes there is comment about physical exercise (that's good) and family functions (that's even "gooder"). But what is missing all too often? Any allusion to a personal Sabbath: those times for activities that enlarge and cleanse the soul, times for inner conversation.

"What do you do in Sabbath time?" I am sometimes asked. I disappoint, I suspect, when I evade the formulaic answer. I discarded the gimmicks a long time ago. They didn't work for me. What became more important was outcomes. What do I do? Simple: whatever it takes for a renewed sense of conversion to Christ, a deeper awareness of the biblical way, an assurance that God's grace and power remain with me.

When I ask many leaders if there is time in their calendars for the pursuit of such outcomes, I get these kinds of responses:

  • I'm just too busy.
  • I don't have the slightest idea what I'd do if I took the time.
  • My mind is too full of thought; I can't concentrate.
  • I'm an extrovert. Being alone, being quiet, reflecting is not my thing.
  • I don't get any immediate result out of doing it.
  • It's boring.
Amongst other things, McDonald discusses William Wilberforce's habit of taking a weekly Sabbath - not so much the day as the intention. Apart from McDonald's own list of questions he might ask himself at such a time, he lists the much shorter one set out by John Newton, Wilberforce's great friend and pastor:

* To begin and end every day with God.
* To peruse Scriptures with a diligence and attention suited to the dignity of the subject.
* To spend the Sabbath entirely with the Lord.
* To choose for my companions only good people from whom I may derive some improvement.
* To become all things to all men in order that I may save some.

These aren't just Sabbath statements, and they may not be something everyone can grasp hold of in their current life situation. However, between the list that McDonald offers [see the article itself], and the list that Newton gives, there is certainly plenty to consider.

"The battle is won in the secret places of the will before God," wrote Oswald Chambers. "Never first in the external world. … Nothing has power over the (person) who has fought out the battle before God and won there."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bradley Wright

This morning I discovered Bradley Wright's blog, along with his recently published book (the official publishing date is July), called Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media.

Wright is a sociologist at the University of Connecticut. On his blog he likes to spend time digging into statistics to see if they say what we're told they say - in other words, he's a man after my own heart (a blogger and suspicious of how stats are often interpreted). It's not that he doesn't believe the stats; but he wants to make sure we're getting real information out of them, not false.

For instance, in a post he wrote late last year called The Creation of a Useful, but Inaccurate, Statistic he takes George Barna to task for 'proving' something from a very small sample (270 participants) and from questions that were ambiguous to say the least. This is typical of Wright's approach, and typical of the information in his book too, by the sound of it.

I think Barna does a pretty good job overall, but I do question some of his polls and surveys. Having taken part in a good number of surveys myself over the years, and having had to put more than one together, I know how easy it is for the wrong questions to be asked - with the result that the wrong answers get recorded, and misinformation arises.

I'm going to be adding Wright to my list of blogs needing to be read on a regular basis. When it comes to the world of stats, we need all the insight and clarity we can get.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Boys don't cry and other lies we tell men....

In an excellent article on the Sojourners site, Catholic priest, Richard Rohr, looks at the way the inner life of men is hugely neglected in modern culture - with disastrous results.
Here are some extracts - but please read the whole article, which is full of wisdom.

Take a typical woman, educated or uneducated, of most any race or ethnicity, and give her this agenda: “You are not to have any close friends or confidants; you are to avoid any show of need, weakness, or tender human intimacy; you may not touch other women without very good reason; you may not cry; you are not encouraged to trust your inner guidance, but only outer authorities and “big” people; and you are to judge yourself by your roles, titles, car, house, money, and successes. People are either in your tribe, or they are a competitive threat—or of no interest!” Then tell her, “This is what it feels like to be a male, most of the time.” Maleness can be a very lonely and self-defeating world.

I know I am walking on sacred ground here, but I am going to say it: The church often does not really encourage an inner life. It substitutes belief systems and belonging systems and moral systems for interior journeys toward God. As a result the outer behavior is pretty weak as well. I would be willing to argue this position at the highest levels of Catholic hierarchy, Protestant scripture interpretation, or fundamentalist mental gymnastics.
In fact, the reason that such external hierarchy, simplistic and dualistic readings of scripture, and heady fundamentalism exist at all is primarily because of the male unwillingness to feel, to suffer, to lose, and to stand in the place of the outsider with even basic empathy. Which, of course, is exactly where Jesus stood and suffered, “even to accepting death, yes death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). How do we dare to worship a “loser” and yet so idealize winning?

If our churches do not find ways to validate, encourage, structure, and teach men an inner life—as opposed to mere belief systems, belonging systems, and moral systems, which the Olympics do much better!—I am not sure what the church’s reason for continued existence might be. We are failing the test with one half of the species, which means we are failing for the other half too. Organized religion is not doing its inherent job of transforming people at any deep level.

Obama on fatherhood

As someone who, like Barack Obama, grew up without a father, I appreciate what he had to say in his Father's Day speech this year. Here's a couple of extracts.

"Here’s the key message I think all of us want to send today to fathers all across the country: Our children don’t need us to be superheroes. They don’t need us to be perfect. They do need us to be present. They need us to show up and give it our best shot, no matter what else is going on in our lives. They need us to show them -- not just with words, but with deeds -- that they, those kids, are always our first priority. Those family meals, afternoons in the park, bedtime stories; the encouragement we give, the questions we answer, the limits we set, the example we set of persistence in the face of difficulty and hardship -- those things add up over time, and they shape a child’s character, build their core, teach them to trust in life and to enter into it with confidence and with hope and with determination.”
"Now, I can’t legislate fatherhood -- I can’t force anybody to love a child. But what we can do is send a clear message to our fathers that there is no excuse for failing to meet their obligations. What we can do is make it easier for fathers who make responsible choices and harder for those who avoid those choices. What we can do is come together and support fathers who are willing to step up and be good partners and parents and providers ... But ultimately, we know that the decision to be a good father -- that’s up to us, each of us, as individuals. It’s one that men across this country are making every single day -- attending those school assemblies; parent-teacher conferences; coaching soccer, Little League; scrimping and saving, and working that extra shift so that their children can go to college."

President Obama's speech marks the one-year anniversary of the new national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility that the White House launched across the country. "Fatherhood" was also one of the key task forces of the Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Obama said that each forum posed a simple question: "How can we as a nation - not just the government, but businesses and community groups and concerned citizens - how can we all come together to help fathers meet their responsibilities to our families and communities?"

Photo by Llima Orosa

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm a bit late in mentioning this, but this week is Volunteer Week in New Zealand.

New Zealand is a leading nation in contribution made by volunteers. A 2008 study of the New Zealand non-profit sector estimated that volunteers make up 67% of the non-profit workforce. This is equal to 133,799 paid positions, a higher proportion than in any of the other forty world countries participating in the research project on volunteering.

Volunteer rates between different ethnic groups in the country don't differ greatly:

34.8% of Pacific people
34.5% of Pakeha
34% non NZ-born Europeans
33.4% Asians
33.2% Maori.

More women volunteer than men, but in the retirement age groups, men do more unpaid work outside the home than women.

Most volunteers are in the 30-49 age group but young people are active as volunteers. The average young person aged between 12 and 24 does over 708 hours of unpaid work outside the home a year, with young Maori giving significantly more of their time in unpaid roles than other young people.

Volunteers keep people safe by being unpaid fire fighters, St John ambulance officers, Red Cross volunteers, community patrollers, surf lifesavers, coastguards and search and rescue volunteers.

Over 820,000 people do volunteer work in sports compared to 41,000 who get paid.

These are just a few stats from Volunteering New Zealand and Office for Community and Voluntary Sector.

Peter Bregman, iPad and addiction

I've quoted Peter Bregman's articles before. I like his self-deprecating humour, and his good sense. I'm not going to quote him this time, just tell you that you need to read the article entitled, 'Why I returned my iPad'.

Why do I think you need to read it? Because in it he tells us what the value of returning the iPad was as opposed to keeping it. He doesn't say there's anything wrong with the iPad itself, but there was something wrong with

Substitute 'iPad' for any one of a hundred other addictive things, and you get the idea.

By the way, his use of 'boredom' might be questioned, and is questioned by some of those who comment. A better word might be found....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Why is rock solid community impossible for us? Because solid community is based on obligation, and obligation is a dirty word for those of us living in late modernity. Community cannot be community where individual free will is king. Community demands that I give up my own freedom for the good of the group. Therefore, lasting community asks that I see myself obligated to these people (my belonging is deeper than my job, education, place of residence, or personal identity—I choose the community over it). But we don’t see things this way; rather, we expect our communities not to come before these personal things, but to serve us by enhancing them.

The paragraph above comes from an adaptation of chapter three of The Promise of Despair: The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 2010) by Andrew Root. The excerpt was extracted and edited by Jonathan Davis.

This is a very good article on community and the reasons why we struggle with achieving it in our contemporary setting. It provides an 'answer' but the question is whether we're willing to go with the answer and change our way of thinking/living.

Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Seminary) is assistant professor of youth and family ministry at Luther Seminary (St. Paul, MN). A Fuller MDiv grad, Andy is the author of several books, including The Promise of Despair, Children of Divorce, and Relationships Unfiltered. He has worked in congregations, para-church ministries and social service programs.

The return of the multi-generational household

The following paragraph indicates an interesting trend in family households, which may also be increasing in New Zealand.

The number of Americans living in two-adult-generation households grew from 28 million in 1980 to 49 million in 2008, with 25% of Baby Boomers expecting to live with their parents again; and the recession has accelerated the trend. Supporting both parents and children takes a major emotional and financial toll, with the average yearly cost of supporting an aging parent at $5,534 and the yearly cost of supporting adult children at $7,660. But 76% of those helping a relative say they enjoy it, and 54% have bonded with their loved one more than they anticipated.

The first sentence is a bit unclear, but basically we're talking here about a member of the grandparent generation moving back in with one of their children and that child's family. Or the three-generational group moving into a different house together.

We were blessed when our children were growing up to have my mother living with us. She had her own living area upstairs, her own bathroom and a small kitchen. The enormous benefits this gave to our children are too many to count. It was also great to have a built-in babysitter (!)

However, this won't work in every situation, and it can be an awful burden for some. Still, my intuition is that it's
healthier for the older person to live with their family. Even older people living in their own homes are healthier than older people living in rest homes. People who go into rest homes seem to deteriorate faster than those who don't.

It turns out my intuition is backed up in the report the paragraph at the top of this post relates to. One of the findings was:

Older adults who live alone are less healthy and they more often feel sad or depressed than their counterparts who live with a spouse or with others. These correlations stand up even after controlling for demographic factors such as gender, race, age, income and education.

The report is called: The Return of the Multi-Generational Household. It is presented by the PewResearch Centre, and came out in March 2010.

Photo by Dianna, on

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Equality is better for everyone

Tapu Misa recently noted: Inequality, as epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue in their 2009 book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, hurts us all. As well as links to higher crime, ill-health, shorter life expectancy and a range of social pathologies, inequality drives a wedge between people, corroding trust and raising levels of anxiety. Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised then that an annual Massey University survey has found we've become more tolerant of income inequality, even as we've become more unequal.

An Amazon reviewer points out: Within the 400+ pages of this book, [Wilkinson and Pickett] emphasize that it is not the poor and the deprived in isolation who suffer from the effects of inequality, but also the bulk of that nation's population. According to their findings. incidences of mental illness, for example, are 500% higher across the whole population spectrum in the most unequal societies than they in the most 'equal' ones. [My italics]

Misa also notes:

In his 2009 book Justice, the Harvard professor of philosophy Michael Sandel writes that while politicians have largely ignored inequality, philosophers have been debating the just distribution of income and wealth since the 1970s.

He argues an important reason to worry about the growing inequality of American life is that "too great a gap between rich and poor undermines the solidarity that democratic citizenship requires".

This blog has recently produced its 700th post. Wow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prostitution in New Zealand

As usual, it seems, New Zealand has followed a trend only to find that everyone else is starting to change their mind....

Family First NZ says that the Auckland police admission that underage prostitution is on the increase in the city is yet more evidence that the National government must immediately repeal the flawed prostitution law. “This latest review has found girls as young as 12 prostituting themselves in central Auckland, and a similar investigation in South Auckland in 2008 found 16 teenagers aged between 13 and 16 prostituting themselves on the streets of South Auckland,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Politicians who voted for this ideologically flawed bill which decriminalised prostitution should hang their heads in shame as they have normalized the behaviour amongst at-risk teenagers. They have also condemned more men and women to this destructive industry. Prostitution is not the oldest profession – it is the oldest oppression.

And in an interesting reversal of a trend:

Bulgaria is only the latest European country to shift its approach to prostitution. Finland last year made it illegal to buy sex from women brought in by traffickers, and Norway is on the verge of imposing an outright ban on purchasing sex. Even in Amsterdam, the city government has proposed shutting down more than a quarter of the famed storefront brothels in the red-light district. And in the Czech Republic and the three Baltic republics, attempts at legalization similar to the Bulgarian one have been turned back.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making Ideas Happen

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, by Scott Belsky.

This book first came to my notice on the Out of Ur blog, where it’s highly recommended by reviewer, Scott Wenig.

He writes:

Belsky’s passion is to help people put their best ideas into action. As the founder and CEO of Behance, a company devoted to empowering and organizing the creative world, he and his team interviewed hundreds of productive people and teams over a six year period to discover the principles behind their success. The result of their empirical research is this book, a systematic presentation of the necessary steps needed to bring ideas to fruition.

In my opinion, a great number of pastors and Christian leaders could readily benefit from Making Ideas Happen. We’re often creative, idea-oriented types who love to cast the vision or promote the mission of our church or organization. But, as one noted Christian leader has said about vision sermons and mission statements, “If it’s hanging on the wall but it ain’t happening down the hall, it ain’t happening.” Belsky has given us an accessible guide to creating church and ministry systems that will produce what we’ve preached and promised.

It’s helpful, of course, to read the whole review, and there are a number of other positive ones on Amazon. And if you’ve got ten minutes of down time, check out the Behance site (I assume it’s related to ‘enhance’) – there are some wonderfully creative and inspiring people networked there.

Belsky notes: “very seldom is anything accomplished alone” and there is “tremendous power waiting to be unleashed in the network” of most groups.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Lifeline to potential suicides

Carolyn Thomas writes in the Western Leader

Lifeline Aotearoa cultural adviser George Hill thinks it's time to do something about suicide rates among young Maori. So the kaumatua from South Head's Haranui Marae is working alongside clinical director Dr Stephen Edwards to trial a community-based suicide prevention course.

A marae setting, cultural protocol and detailed introductions are among changes to a Canadian programme which is already taught in communities world-wide. The Applied Suicide Intermediate Skills Training or ASIST course teaches the basics of recognising signs of someone at risk of suicide and making the right response.

"It's almost like CPR," Mr Hill says. "It's about keeping that person alive until there is more comprehensive help." Dr Edwards says young Maori men are over-represented in the suicide statistics. "New Zealand has one of the highest suicide rates in the world compared to other OECD countries." [Read the rest of the article here.]

The YSPP site notes this about warning signs relating to suicide:

Most suicidal young people don’t really want to die; they just want their pain to end. About 80% of the time, people who kill themselves have given definite signals or talked about suicide. The key to prevention is to know these signs and what to do to help.

Watch for these signs. They may indicate someone is thinking about suicide. The more signs you see, the greater the risk.

  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Current talk of suicide or making a plan
  • Strong wish to die or a preoccupation with death
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Hinting at not being around in the future or saying good-bye

These warning signs are especially noteworthy in light of:

  • a recent death or suicide of a friend or family member
  • a recent break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or conflict with parents
  • news reports of other suicides by young people in the same school or community

Other key risk factors include:

  • Readily accessible firearms
  • Impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
  • Lack of connection to family and friends (no one to talk to)
[Mike Crowl notes:] Around 25 years ago, three young men who'd been connected with our church - and a fourth who went to another Pentecostal church - killed themselves. In each case the main reason was a recent breakup with a girl friend. We have a tendency to think that young men aren't affected by relationship break-ups - and certainly, many don't appear to be - but even without these 'warning signs' from ASIST, I would have placed this high on the list of possible reasons for a young man committing suicide.

Tithing facts.....

Destiny Church in New Zealand has been in the news more than once relating to tithing, particularly in regard to the poorer members of the congregation being required to tithe along with the better-off. While we don't have particular details about what NZ churches do in relation to tithing, we can possibly get idea when we look at the US stats on the subject - some of which are surprising. Figures come courtesy of Scot McKnight.

Fact #1: poor people are more likely to tithe and give a higher percent of their income that wealthy people. Thus, Americans who make $10,000 or less give 11.2% of their income, while those who make $150,000+ give 2.7% of their income. There is a basic descent of percent of income given from the poor to the wealthy. I suspect, looking at the Presbyterian Church stats, that this may be the case in New Zealand too, but don't have specific evidence.

Fact #2: denominationally, the spectrum moves from Catholics (2.2%) to Liberal Protestants (3.0%) to Conservative Protestants (5.5%) to Black Protestants (5.7%) to Mormons (7.1%) in percent of income given to the church. The percent giving a tithe goes like this: RCC (2.5%), Liberals (5.9%), Conservatives (14.4%), Black Protestants (13.5%) to Mormons (34.0%).

Fact #3: those who tithe or who give more correlate with such things as church attendance.

And two more intriguing facts:
Fact: widows and widowers are the most likely to tithe: 20.1% widows vs. 16.7 widowers tithe. Following in the footsteps of the woman in the Gospels, no doubt!

Fact: older people are more likely to tithe. The average age of an American tither is 54.1 yrs.

Photo by Darren Hester

Older people at work

The graph above comes from the Department of Labour's fact sheet on older workers in the NZ labour market. Apart from the fact that the first box should read working-age population 55 years and older (and not 15 years and older) this is an interesting graph to ponder on when you're thinking about church and older people. (As I always seem to be doing - must be something to do with now being a superannuitant!)

Notice that there's a good percentage of people in the work force compared to those out of it, but that within those who are employable or wanting to be employed, only 2.8% are out of work. By contrast, have a look at the youth graph.

There are about three times as many youth in the 15-19 age bracket, yet there are ten times as many unemployed. This presumably isn't counting those who are studying or at school - it's those who want to be employed and are not.

What questions does this raise in terms of church? Does it say that older workers won't be as readily available to do volunteer work? Does it say there's a big need for youth programmes that assist them into employment. How can the church help? What other questions does it ask?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Countering leadership assumptions

In a review of the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Angie Ward notes that : the authors discovered three surprises about change that run counter to common ministry leadership assumptions.

Surprise #1: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. Perhaps the problem is not with the people in your congregation, but with the systems that reinforce their behaviours. What are you doing to enable the very behavior you are trying to change?

Surprise #2: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. If new behaviours are too taxing, they stand little chance of developing into habits. Are you asking too much at once?

Surprise #3: What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity. Often change doesn't happen because people aren't given crystal-clear direction. Do you really know where you're going, and do the people in your ministry know the next personal step to get there?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Essential reading from Richard Floyd

There's a superb blog post on Richard Floyd's blog, A Retired Pastor Ruminates, called, The Ministry and its Discontents: pastors in peril.

I've mentioned 'bullying, abusive congregations' on this blog before; Floyd has these in mind, but only partly. What his main concern is that where a church conducts a review of a pastor and doesn't conduct a review of itself, it's heading down a dangerous track. Early in the piece he writes:

...pastors in peril are nothing new, but I have been noticing a discouraging pattern in my newsletter reading lately. And I must interject here that I have known lazy and incompetent ministers, and others who were just in over their heads, but that is not what I am talking about here. Several of my friends who are smart, wise, bright, hard-working and faithful have suddenly found themselves in peril.

Typically it starts with some sort of a parish self-study or pastoral assessment. That should be harmless enough, right? Who can be against transparency and accountability? But my heart sinks when I read in the newsletter about the formation of such a group, because sure enough, when the results come in there are “concerns” about the pastor, and a special committee is created to “address the concerns.” The newsletters typically report such grave findings in a kind of code, but you don’t have to be a genius to read between the lines.

Floyd is a man of considerable experience, and he's obviously been through the tough times (as some of his other blog posts have noted). Here he writes in an almost elder statesman style, as one who views the difficulties from the vantage point of acquired wisdom.

This blog post is essential reading.

Tweeting from Edinburgh

Some tweets from the Edinburgh 2010 Mission Conference, which has been taking place over the last couple of days or so. These are rather randomly listed - I copied the ones that most interested me....

First some stats:
In 1910, 80% of Christians lived in countries of at least 90% Christians. In 2010, 33% of Christians live in 90%-Christian countries – from Edinburgh 2010.

Across all faiths, the world is “less religious” in 2010 than 1910 - and yet, the world in 2010 is more religious than it was in 1970.

In 2010 about 27% of all Christians are "Renewalists": Pentecostal, Charismatic, Neo-Charismatic - Todd Johnson's report is context for...?

In 1910, 66% of all Christians were European, with an additional 15% from N America; in 2010, 25% in Europe, 12.5% in N America.

86% of Muslims, Hindus, & Buddhists do not personally know a Christian. This lack of interfaith *friendship* is a crisis in mission.

These statistics mentioned by Todd Johnson for #th2 are from the Atlas of Global Christianity project.

And some pithy statements, some of which take a bit of unravelling:

Fr. Jan Lenssen: Real, radical "communities of hospitality" make more of a difference than sheer numbers of Christians.

1910’s urgency to conquer diversity has paradigm-shifted into 2010’s reluctance to smother diversity..

In order to reach people in contexts of secularism and pluralism, witness must embrace religious tolerance rather than confront it.

*Understanding* other faiths is a priority, before either dialogue or evangelism: there is a place for the Qur'an in Sunday school...[This one struck me as adding more complications - Sunday School often seems to struggle to teach Christianity, let alone the Qur'an!]

priority: Inter-generational dialogue. Dialogue between "native speakers" of modernity and "native speakers" of postmodernity.

priority: Deepening our understanding of God's mission, rather than inventing and carrying out our own.

The secular world also adds to our discourse – it helps us “discern the spirits”. Indeed, we cannot uncritically affirm religion..

Rev Roderick Hewitt from the United Church of Jamaica talks to participants about child resiliency & building ‘youth friendly’ churches. [This should please NZ's Presbyterians, who have a Kids Friendly programme in place, and running very successfully.]

Our plurality today - diverse cultural, theological, ecclesial flourishing - is a sign of hope and vitality, not lack of direction...

"How can we possibly claim to be a credible witness community if we are still far from practicing equality, charity, etc, in our lives?”

How easy it is to be confused or dismayed when what we see in the world does not match our learned categories of understanding!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Theology of self-care

Roy Oswald's book, Clergy Self-Care, begins by looking at the theology of health/wellness. A colleague provided the following notes in relation to this section of the book:

• God is omnipotent and omnipresent, ministers are not!

• God in Christ has done all that is necessary to redeem the world. Ministers do not need to save the world again.

• Mission and ministry belong to whole Body of Christ; a communal activity. Ministry does not belong solely to the Minister.

• Ministry should be a response to an experience of the grace of God. However motives can become distorted and ministry can flow from guilt or the seeking of personal fulfillment.

• Ministers are created beings, and with all humanity have limitations and weaknesses.

• Human beings are responsible for the stewardship of God’s world and themselves.

• God has given a model of self-care in observing the sacred rhythm of work and rest, the Sabbath. Jesus provides a model of doing ministry and taking care of himself; a balance of work and rest.

• Ministers need to learn that to be a person of compassion; we must not to be strung out with every human need that comes along.

• The biblical view of human beings is that the body, heart, soul and mind are all interconnected, parts of our whole being.

Missional approach, and on not 'going' to Church

Brad Brisco
offers nine points on Moving in a Missional Direction in the latest Next-Wave ezine.

1. Start with spiritual formation
2. Cultivate a missional leadership approach
3. Emphasize the priesthood of all believers
4. Focus attention on the local community
5. Don’t do it alone
6. Create new means of measuring success
7. Search for third places
8. Tap into the power of stories
9. Promote patience

The details relating to these headings can be found in Brisco’s article, and is worth reading alongside Wayne Jacobsen’s Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore. That article lays out Jacobsen’s reasons for not going to church, but for being Church. Interesting arguments that are worth reflecting on.

You will never see revival in the West until you are willing to use your women

When I attended a Pentecostal church, one of things that struck me most was that they took a 'Scriptural' point of view in relation to women preaching in the church, but a very non-Scriptural point of view when it came to women being missionaries overseas - on their own, without support. In other words, out of sight.

In the latest Next-Wave ezine, there's an article by Felicity Dale entitled Rethinking the Challenging Scriptures. The challenging scriptures in question concern the role(s) of women in the church. The thing that most struck me about this article are the words she quotes from Yonggi Cho, who, in 1983 (when Dale visited him) ran a church of some 350,000 members.

Yonggi Cho said: You will never see revival in the West until you are willing to use your women.

That was 1983. A good number of women in NZ have since managed - often with considerable difficulty - to become priests and ordained ministers in mainline churches. But as a colleague said to me yesterday: the average number of women in a Presbyterian Church congregation is around 70%. The average number of men in the leadership (that is, as ministers or elders) is around 80%.

Don't these figures clash just a little in your mind? Perhaps Yonggi Cho's words say more than we think.

Felicity Dale writes a blog called Simply Church which (among other things) has a focus on women in ministry and the need they have for the support and encouragement of men to achieve their goals.

Digital Rivers Newtown - a short story

The Internet Evangelism Day website has given permission for the following 'short story' to be republished.

It’s not often that a completely new town is built on unused open land. But that’s where Digital Rivers Newtown was constructed, in a previously undiscovered valley. People soon came flooding in to live, moving from surrounding settlements such as Printville and TVtown.

A new ethos of communication quickly developed, with its own dialect. The immigrants took a little time to learn it, but for their children born in Digital Rivers, it was as natural as breathing.

Alongside the new housing came shops. Quite soon, the Broogle store developed into the biggest and most popular on main street. Its biggest competitor, the BingHoo mall, had a smaller share of the market.

Broogle had little interest in selling food and drink, and allocated no space in their building to such a frivolous pursuit. So everyone was pleased when a student started selling coffee and fruit drinks from a coffee cart on the other side of the road. Mike Zuckerbook’s Coffee became wildly popular and he was soon able to rent a new cafe opposite Broogle’s. His unique selling point was the layout of the tables, enabling customers to talk to a wide range of friends over their drinks. Mike was continually extending the cafe floor area to cater for the growth.

Then came developments that shocked Broogle’s owners. Mike started to sell some of the same products that they did, as well as others they had never thought of. No longer did residents merely drop in to Zuckerbook’s for a quick coffee after shopping at Broogle’s. People could often be seen walking down the street towards Broogle’s, notice their friends popping into Zuckerbook’s – or smell the coffee – and quickly cross the road. After an hour or so, they might emerge from Zuckerbook’s and perhaps cross over into Broogle’s for five minutes, if at all.

Digital Rivers was changing fast. Its residents were finding their own new incarnation of the interactive grapevine that has existed within communities for millennia.

This story, of course, references Google and Facebook (Google’s founders were Brin and Page; Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook). The phenomenal rise and rise of Facebook seems set to continue. Perhaps half of all web users will have Facebook profiles within a year, certainly the figure is already near 100% for younger ‘digital’ people.

Increasingly, Facebook is becoming a ‘web within the Web’ – a one-stop resource creating less need to go into the wider web world so frequently. (This is a reflection, in some ways, of the proprietary content that AOL and Compuserve used to offer to their subscribers in the early days of the Web.)

Recent developments by Facebook are enabling more types of third-party content to be integrated into Facebook profiles and fan pages. Expect to see further dramatic developments in this area, making Facebook even more of a one-stop universal resource. The opportunities for FB fan, community pages and groups will continue to expand.

Despite its various quirks, Facebook is now a powerful yet easy opportunity for any web user to share faith online: read how.